In Japanese wartime animation, Japan’s enemies and colonized peoples frequently appear in animal form.1 In animated versions of the manga Norakuro (Stray Black) produced in the 1930s, for instance, there is a dog regiment that stands in for Japanese soldiers, and the dogs do battle with tigers, monkeys, and pigs who apparently represent peoples, races, or nations within the Japanese empire. In animated ﬁlms based on the folklore character Momotarô (Peach Boy) produced between 1931 and 1945, animals common to Japan (monkeys, dogs, pheasants) serve as Japanese soldiers, while peoples of Japan’s conquered territories take the form of animals indigenous to those regions. At ﬁrst glance, such an association of peoples with animal species seems to
present nothing more than a naturalization of ethnos, race, or nation. After all, insofar as a dog does not choose to be a dog, depictions of the Japanese regiment as a dog regiment would seem to naturalize Japaneseness, to make it appear as a natural classiﬁcation, a given, an ontological condition or empirical fact. As such, the transformation of peoples into animal species in wartime animation seems designed to avoid a confrontation with the negativity and mediation inherent in nationalism that Naoki Sakai has repeatedly shown to be one of the central concerns of Kyoto School Philosophy of roughly the same period, particularly in his discussion of the essays of Tanabe Hajime gathered in a volume entitled Shu no ronri or “The Logic of Species” (Sakai 2000). Animal species in wartime animation might appear to imply an immediate, unmediated, positivistic belonging to an ethnos, race, or nation. There is nonetheless a sort of negativity at work in the dynamics of animal
species in wartime animations. There is mediation of ethnos or nation. But such negativity is not apparent if we read these animations exclusively at the level of representation, if we assume that dogs unambiguously represent the Japanese, for instance, and completely ignore the speciﬁcity of animation. This is where Sakai’s work on Tanabe Hajime and “The Logic of Species” proves crucial, not because it addresses the speciﬁcity of animation per se, but because it forces us to move beyond a simplistic analysis of representation and to take a closer look at mediation, which in turn leads to a consideration of media (animation).